Tribal Origin: Algonquian Family
Native Name: Bodéwadmi, means ‘Keepers of the fire’
Home Territories: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and WisconsinLanguage: Potawatomi
Alliances: Tuscarora, Oneida, Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga and Cayuga
Enemies: The Illinois and the Iroquois
The Potawatomi are first mentioned in French records, which suggest that in the early 17th century, they lived in what is now southwestern Michigan. During the Beaver Wars they fled to the area around Green Bay to escape attacks by both the Iroquois and the Neutral Nation, who were seeking expanded hunting grounds.
As an important part of Tecumseh’s Confederacy, Potawatomi warriors took part in Tecumseh’s War, the War of 1812 and the Peoria War. Their allegiance switched repeatedly between the British and the Americans as power relations shifted between the nations.
At the time of the War of 1812, a band of Potawatomi inhabited the area near Fort Dearborn, in the current location of Chicago.
Led by the chiefs Blackbird and Nuscotomeg (Mad Sturgeon), a force of about 500 warriors attacked the evacuation column leaving Fort Dearborn; they killed a majority of the civilians and 54 of Captain Nathan Heald’s force, and wounded many others.
George Ronan, the first graduate of West Point to become a fatal casualty in combat, was killed in this ambush. The incident is referred to as the Battle of Fort Dearborn.
A Potawatomi chief named Mucktypoke (Makdébki, Black Partridge), counseled against the attack and later saved some of the civilian captives who were being ransomed by the Potawatomi.
The Prairie Band Potawatomi purchased 1,280 acres (5.2 km) of land near Shabbona, Illinois, in rural DeKalb County.
The Mesquaki, another Algonquian people, also bought land in Illinois, one of the only states that allowed Indians to purchase land. Another band of the Potawatomi had land in Crown Point, Indiana.
Today, the Potawatomi are a thriving community, building their community in Southwestern Michigan (Dowagiac). They provide health services and education to the people, with revenues generated from the tribe’s gaming and other business operations.
Potawatomi Tribes Today:
Citizen Potawatomi Nation (F)
Forest County Potawatomi (F)
Hannaville Indian Community (F)
Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Potawatomi (F)
Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (F)
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians (F)
Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation (formerly the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Indians) (F)